This class has begged the question of the usefulness of social media in social movements and revolutions. While it is apparent that the answer varies greatly depending upon whom and what is being moved upon, we tend to gauge social media’s usefulness based on the lens of the dominant political culture in the U.S. Such a view can lead to narrow thinking and engagement with analyzing the usefulness of social media for other cultures within and outside of the United States.
I have often argued the minority opinion that Twitter can indeed be and has been useful. For starters, it is not only useful in the Middle East and North Africa, but also across different cultures in the United States. What must be evaluated and pondered is the accessibility, reach and need for social media in different cultures and their movements. The tactical measures that Karpf argues do not necessarily lead to strategic action are not necessarily true. Oppressed groups in search and need of an avenue to share can surely find it by way of sharing information and ideas. This virtual space is, in fact, extremely useful for such groups, especially those who have the urgency but lack the spaces to meet and organize themselves regularly and/or publicly.
I would argue that while revolutionary movement can be called for through sharing pressing information online, the revolutions do not begin online. The impetus for revolution is rooted in situations that call for them—not talking online. The coverage, sharing and discussions that occur on social media have only revolutionized how these revolutions will form and navigate discussion. The sharing of ideas far and wide by way of the internet definitely has had a useful impact that reach beyond the tactical measures this class seems a bit hung up on. The use of social media allowed the Arab Spring to take shape in a new and innovative way that previous uprisings had not. Through social media, the people who were inclined to begin and participate in the revolution were able to provide information that pushed for movement on the streets. Tufeki and Wilson found that social media use increased the odds that a respondent attended protests (363).
Does the urgency of situations have an effect on how useful social media can be in social movements?
Has the Arab Spring reading changed your opinion or views of social media? If so, how?